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Catalogue of the manuscripts of Sir John Floyer, early 18th cent.


Medical and theological writings of Sir John Floyer (1649-1734).

Shelfmarks: Queen’s College MSS. 558-581

Extent: 23 shelfmarks

Biographical History

John Floyer, born in 1649, the third child of Richard and Elizabeth Floyer of Hints Hall, Staffordshire, matriculated at The Queen’s College Oxford in 1664, graduated BA in 1668, MA in 1671, BM in 1674 and DM in 1680. He settled in Lichfield in about 1675 and practised as a physician there for over fifty years. He published widely and is best known for his researches into asthma, his advocacy of cold bathing, his recognition of the importance of the pulse rate in diagnosis and his development of a pulse watch to assist in its accurate measurement. His published works demonstrate his interest in experiment and constitute a significant contribution to developments in clinical medicine.

Himself a sufferer from asthma, Floyer’s A Treatise of Asthma, published in 1698, contained important clinical observations and the first detailed description of emphysema. He was the first physician to time the pulse as a routine clinical practice and his The Physician’s Pulse Watch, published in two volumes in 1707 and 1710, contains a mass of observations and charts. In 1724, at the age of 75, Floyer published Medicina gerocomica; the Galenic art of preserving old men’s healths, a treatise regarded as the first English book on geriatrics, in which he recommended fresh air, exercise, regular diet and temperance as the best means of preserving health in old age.

Floyer’s manuscripts reveal his interest in the study of prophecy and closely relate to his published works on the prophet Esdras, the Book of Revelations and the Sybilline oracles.

Scope and Content

The manuscripts are draft essays and treatises on medical and theological matters, for the most part preparatory to his published works.


They are arranged in two sections, the first (A) medical and the second (B) theological.


Given to The Queen’s College by Floyer.

Restrictions on Access

Contact the Librarian to make an appointment in advance.

Personal names (NCA Rules)

Floyer | Sir | John | 1649-1734 | Knight, physician

Corporate names (NCA Rules)

University of Oxford | The Queen’s College

Place names (NCA Rules)

Lichfield | Staffordshire

Subjects (LCSH)

Medicine — Early works to 1800
Theology — Early works to 1800


(A) Medical Manuscripts, MSS. 558-569

Treatise by Sir John Floyer on the practice of medicine, early 18th cent., in the form of ‘Advise to a young student in physicke’
Shelfmark: MS. 558
Extent: 48 leaves
Binding: Paper wrappers

Comprises chapters on

  • (fols. 2-10) evidence provided by the study of the mechanisms of the human body for the existence of God the Creator
  • (fols. 11-14) God as ‘the author of the art of physicke’ and characteristics of a good physician
  • (fols. 15-21) the academic and practical education of a physician, including (fol. 21) a scheme for the establishment of a medical college at Oxford University and the foundation of a hospital there for the care of the poor and the instruction of students
  • (fol. 22) the charity and compassion of a good physician, who should attend the poor free of charge
  • (fols.23-6) the ethics of medical practice
  • (fols. 27-30) the characteristics of a poor physician and (fol. 28v) the causes of ‘the disgrace of physicke in this age’
  • (fols. 31-45) the improvement of clinical practice by the study and application of medicines according to their tastes


  • (fol. 46) an account of ancient practice in the prescription of ‘hot’ medicines for ‘cold’ diseases and of ‘cold specifics for hott diseases’
  • (fols. 47-8) observations on the effects of cold and hot baths

Directions by Sir John Floyer for the education of his grandson as a physician, c.1714-20, with related essays listed on fol. 1 ‘Physicall essayes: or the first part of a dispensatory for the countrey physician’
Shelfmark: MS. 559
Extent: 48 leaves
Binding: Rough paper wrappers


  • (fol. 2) instructions for the education of his grandson at school and university and in clinical medicine, with advice for his reading and the conduct of his first practice. The heading ‘Directions for the Education of my Grandchild John Floyer in the study of physick’ is annotated ‘writt before his death’.

Note: John Floyer III died in 1720 at the age of four. A note in Floyer’s hand at the end of the list of contents on fol. 1 reads ‘The title of all these essays may be the second part of the advice to a young physician’.

  • (fols. 3-5) an account of medicines, classified by their form – e.g. syrups, waters, tinctures, powders, injections – with descriptions of their tastes and recipes for their preparation
  • (fols. 25-31) an account of vegetables classified by their tastes – styptic, acid, mucilaginous, sweet, bitter, aromatic acrid, fetid and corrosive – with notes on the preparation of medicines from plant, animal and mineral ingredients
  • (fols. 32-5) an account of alterative medicines
  • (fols. 36-7, 40v-46v) ‘Some receipts Collected out of a Countrey Manuscript of a Noble person who understood physicke very well’
  • (fols. 38-40r) an account of pulse rates symptomatic of different diseases
  • (fols. 47-8) a note on the difficulty of applying mathematical principles to the study of the human body

Treatise by Sir John Floyer entitled ‘The third part of the pulse watch in which the Galenic theory of physicke is explained by the circular motion of the humors, and the cure of diseases directed by the observation of the pulse’, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 560/1-2
Extent: 47 and 45 leaves
Binding: Marbled and (item 2) plain paper wrappers


  • (item 1, fols. 2-37) observations on the preservation of a healthy pulse and the diagnosis of diseases from changing pulse rate
  • (item 1, fols. 38-47 and item 2, fols. 1-45) account of the nature and treatment of pulse rates in different diseases

Note: The topics treated are similar to those in the second volume of Floyer’s The Physician’s Pulse Watch (London, 1710).

Medical notes by Sir John Floyer, mainly relating to the pulse, early 18th cent.

Shelfmark: MS. 561
Extent: 30 leaves
Binding: Unbound

Comprises descriptions of the causes, symptoms and treatment of pulse rates in different diseases and conditions

  • (fols. 1-2) inflammation of the mouth
  • (fols. 3-4) ophthalmia
  • (fols. 5-6) bruises
  • (fols. 7-8) ear-ache
  • (fols. 9-10) deafness
  • (fols. 11-12) catalepsy
  • (fols. 13-14) gangrene
  • (fols. 15-18) lepropsy
  • (fols. 19-20) mania
  • (fols. 21-2) tympany
  • (fols. 23-4) the suppression of the lochia
  • (fols. 25-6) sterility
  • (fols. 27-8) catarrh


  • (fols 29-30) notes on asthma.

Treatise by Sir John Floyer entitled ‘The 4th part of the pulse watch: formes of medicines collected and reduced into classes, acording to the physicall tastes of plants, animals and mineralls for the use of countrey physicians and apothecairyes’, early 18th cent.

Shelfmark: MS. 562
Extent: 90 leaves
Binding: Stiffened vellum wrappers


  • (fols. 2-61) classification of medicines according to their tastes, with recipes for their preparation and notes of the diseases for which they may be prescribed, designed to aid physicians and apothecaries in rural practices
  • (fols. 62-72) description of selected medicines designed ‘to unloade the apothecairy from keeping unnecessairy simples and compounds’
  • (fols. 73-90) a dispensatory of simple medicines made from the roots, bark and leaves etc. of plants, with descriptions of their tastes, to guide the physician to the most appropriate dose and form in which to prescribe them

Note: The treatise relates to Floyer’s first published work The Touchstone of medicines (London, 1687).

Treatise by Sir John Floyer on animal and mineral medicines for the use of the country physician, early 18th cent.

Shelfmark: MS. 563 (formerly Queen’s College MS. 65)
Extent: 93 leaves
Binding: Stiffened vellum wrappers


  • (fol. 1) summary of the contents, with a note that the treatise forms part of the dispensatory for the country physician
  • (fol. 2) a preface addressed ‘To the Reader’
  • (fols. 3-36) a classification according to their tastes of medicines made from animal products, with recipes for their preparation and notes on the diseases for which they may be prescribed
  • (fols.37-79) a similar classification of medicines made from minerals
  • (fol. 80r) antidotes for mineral poisons
  • (fols. 80v-81) the art of cupping and abuses of its use
  • (fols. 82-4) the cure of diseases by cauterising.

Treatise by Sir John Floyer entitled ‘The Dispensatory for the countrey physician’, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 564/1-2
Extent: 47 and 30 leaves
Binding: Plain and (item 2) marbled paper wrappers

Comprises a list of simple medicines classified according to their tastes – astringent, mucilaginous, sweet, bitter, aromatic, acrid and corrosive – with recipes for their preparation and notes on the diseases for which they may be prescribed. In item 2, fols. 12-20 those which are taken from the Pharmacopaeias of George Bates and Thomas Fuller are indicated.

Treatise by Sir John Floyer ‘Concerning Diet’, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 565
Extent: i +143 leaves
Binding: Stiffened vellum wrappers


  • (fols. 4-6) introductory notes
  • (fols. 7-44) observations on different types of diet, on appetite, thirst and hunger and (fols. 37-8) on Floyer’s own weight throughout one whole year and throughout the day of 10 October 1699, with (fols. 39v-44) a proposal for a new kind of statics for the weighing of fluids in the body
  • (fols. 45-81) chapters on specific types of vegetable diets, with observations on Floyer’s dissection of animals fed entirely on vegetables
  • (fols. 82-103) chapters on specific types of diets of meat, fish and animal products
  • (fols. 104-13) appendices on the drinking of hot or cold water, on the preparation of food, on diets for different seasons and for different ages and on traditions in eating habits
  • (fols. 114-43) chapters containing recommendations for diets to prevent or cure diferent diseases


  • (fol. 1) a brief list of ‘simples to bee kept by ladyes for the use of their families’.

‘An essay to improve the Animall Spirits and render them more fitt for the operations of the rationall soule and its naturall, morall and divine conduct by reason and the holy spirit’, by Sir John Floyer, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 566
Extent: 38 leaves
Binding: Rough paper wrappers


  • (fols.2-24) an account in seven chapters of the sensations and motions which make up the ‘animal spirits’, on their alteration by diet, air, exercise and rest, and on the effects of the passions – anger, hatred, envy, desire, joy, love, fear, sadness and despondency – on the pulse and circulation, and on the cure of excessive passions
  • (fols. 25-37) an appendix ‘Containing the right condct of the operations of the mind for avoyding the naturall and moral errors of the soule in its actions’, with recommendations for governing thoughts and imagination and for improving memory
  • (fols. 38-9) a separate bifolium, stitched in, containing extracts from Epictetus and Simplicius.

Comments by Sir John Floyer, early 18th cent., on the ‘Medicina Statica Britannica’ of James Keill in the third volume of his Essays (1718) and on the De Statica Medicina of Sanctorius (1561-1636)
Shelfmark: MS. 567
Extent: ii + 58 leaves
Binding: Stitched, not bound


  • (fols. 1-48) lists of aphorisms related to static medicine (the study of variations in the insensible perspiration as determined by the regular weighing of the body), taken for the most part from Sanctorius and Keill, divided into sections on the effects on weight of air and water, meat and drink, sleep, exercise, quiet, venery, and the passions, interspersed with Floyer’s own comments and observations
  • (fols. 49-58) an account of Floyer’s experiments in this field and his recommendations for further work

Advice by Sir John Floyer against the use of inoculation for small pox, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 568
Extent: 6 leaves
Binding: Stitched, not bound


  • (fols. 2-6) reasons, both medical and theological, for not inoculating
  • (fol. 6v) brief notes on Floyer’s experience of small pox epidemics


  • (fol. 1v) a note ‘Lett not my name be putt to these papers if they be printed’.

Note: ‘A letter to the Right Honorable Mr. C. S., concerning the Inoculation of the Small Pox, which is a greater Severity to Infants, than their Immersion in their Baptism’ was published as an appendix to Floyer’s An Essay to restore the Dipping of Infants in their Baptism, (London, 1722).

Two essays in the form of letters by Sir John Floyer concerning air and cold baths, and exercise and friction, 1704 
Shelfmark: MS. 569
Extent: 66 leaves (originally paginated 51-89, 100-191)
Binding: Stiffened vellum wrappers


  • (fols. 1-38) letter, originally addressed to Sir Charles Holt (of Aston Hall in Warwickshire, 1648-1722), with the name altered to ‘Dr. Hollins’ (Dr John Hollins of Shrewsbury), on ‘the effects of aer on the solid and fluid parts of the body and the use of cold Baths and Unctions for preserving the health and defending the body from the injurys of the Aer’, 28 April 1704
  • (fols. 39-66) letter addressed to William, Baron Digby on the benefits and injurious effects of exercise and friction, 1 May 1704


(B) Theological manuscripts, MSS. 570-581

An exposition by Sir John Floyer on the prophets, in chronological order, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 570/1
Extent: iv + 90 pages
Binding: Plain paper wrappers


  • (p. i) draft title page, annotated ‘If this bee printed on the same ordinairy paper as my Esdras and stitched; I expect 2 doz. stitched up’, with lengthy directions for the corrector, explaining Floyer’s methodology, and advising him to consult the Septuagint in cases of doubt
  • (p. iii) preface, in which Floyer explains his view that correct interpretation of the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament is facilitated by re-ordering the Books of the prophets into the chronological order of their writing
  • (pp. 1-80) accounts of the prophecies of Jonah, Joel, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Odbadiah, Haggai and Jeremiah
  • (pp. 81-5) the correct order of the Psalms
  • (p. 86) Floyer’s reasons for linking the prophecy in Isaiah chapter 29 with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and a justification of his dating of chapters 28 and 27
  • (p. 87) notes on the prophecy of Malachai, supplementing those given in Floyer’s The prophecies of the second book of Esdras … vindicated from the objections made against them (London, 1721).

‘A comment on the old prophets and the titles of the psalmes and Job’, by Sir John Floyer, c.1712-1722
Shelfmark: MS. 570/2
Extent: 27 leaves
Binding: Rough paper wrappers

Comprises commentaries on the Books of

  • (fols. 1-7) Jeremiah
  • (fols. 8-14) Ezekiel, chapters 1-40
  • (fols. 15-16) Daniel
  • (fol. 17) the prophecy in Daniel chapter 9, headed ‘My last interpretation of Daniel prophesy ch. 9 of the 70 weekes…1712’, with (fol. 17v) a reference to Peter Lancaster, A chronological essay on the ninth chapter of the book of Daniel (London, 1722)

Treatise by Sir John Floyer entitled ‘The Generall Marckes of the Modern false prophesyes, and the objections against true propheseyes and prodigies are answered’, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS 571
Extent: ii + 38 pages
Binding: Stitched, not bound


  • (p. i) the title of the treatise, headed ‘Tract the fifth’ (altered from ‘second’), with a quotation from 2 Esdras chapter 9 verse 6 ‘The times of the highest have plaine beginnings in wonders and powerfull workes, and endings in effects and signes’
  • (pp. ii-31) defence of the prophecies of Esdras and answer to ‘the objections against his prodigies’, including (p. 20) references to the wars in Europe which followed the comet of 1680 and the earthquakes which preceded King William’s invasion and the death of Queen Mary
  • (pp. 32-3) ‘an answer to those who believe Esdras’ eagle is a discription of the westerne Emperor’
  • (p. 34) propositions for establishing links between the symbols in the prophets and historical events
  • (p. 35) an account of the eclipse of 22 April 1722

Treatise by Sir John Floyer entitled ‘A new hypothesis concerning the signification of comets and prodigies’, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 572
Extent: 20 pages
Binding: Unbound


  • (pp. 1-17) reasons for the belief that comets are signs of future revolutions, with an account of events described in prophecies and predicted by comets from the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 to the early 18th century
  • (p. 18) table of the number of comets in each century since Christ’s birth

‘Divine essayes’ – a collection of five essays by Sir John Floyer on symbols and prophecies, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 573/1
Extent: 37 leaves
Binding: Marbled paper wrappers


  • (fol. 1) a list of contents on the recto crossed through and a revised list on the verso
  • (fols. 2-20r) an essay on the symbols used in the New Testament
  • (fols. 20v-22) a defence of the use of the sign of the cross
  • (fols. 23-5) an explanation of the symbols used by Solomon and by Jacob in his blessing of his son
  • (fols. 26-7) an explanation of the communion of saints ‘by the sacramentall symbols’
  • (fols. 28-32) an essay comparing the prophecies in the New Testament with those in the Old ‘to shew which are onely Allusions, and which are plaine propheseyes’

‘Essayes on Divine Subjets’ by Sir John Floyer, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 573/2
Extent: 37 leaves
Binding: Marbled paper wrappers


  • (fol. 1r) title and list of contents, the last four items deleted, with a note by Floyer ‘All these last essayes doe not belong to the same subject and are cutt of by mee J. F.’
  • (fols.1v-27) an account of the causes of heresy, for the most part in the form of questions and answers
  • (fols. 28-32) ‘The method whereby wee may become true Christians and avoyd both heresyes and schismes and hypocrisy in religion’
  • (fols. 33-5r) an explanation of the prophecies in Ezekiel chapters 37-47
  • (fols. 35v-37) an interpretation of II Esdras chapter 15 and Daniel chapter 11

Essay by Sir John Floyer entitled ‘An Inquiry concerning the seperate state of soules and their severall mansions’, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 574
Extent: 36 pages
Binding: Stitched, not bound

Comprises (pp. 1-35) an essay to prove that the souls of the righteous are received into paradise among the stars and planets.

Four essays by Sir John Floyer forming ‘An Inquiry concerning the seperate state of soules and their severall mansions’, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 575
Extent: ii + 44 pages
Binding: Stitched into three gatherings, not bound


  • (p. i) a list of contents, which includes a fifth essay on ‘The generall marckes of the modern false prophesys’ now MS. 571
  • (pp. 1-20) a description of the second coming of Christ
  • (pp. 21-6) a description of the millennium
  • (pp. 27-34) a description of the destruction of the wicked at the second coming
  • (pp. 35-42) a description of the destruction of the present world, and of the state of the new heaven and earth after the millennium

Observations by Sir John Floyer on Dr. Henry Hammond’s Paraphrase and annotations upon all the books of the New Testament, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 576
Extent: 6 leaves
Binding: Unbound


  • (fols. 1-5) observations countering Hammond’s objections to belief in the millennium
  • (fol. 6v) endorsement ‘Reflexions on Dr. Hammond objections against a millenairy state’

Discourse on the millennium written by Sir John Floyer on the anniversary of the execution of King Charles I, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 577
Extent: ii + 10 pages
Binding: Stitched, not bound

Comprises (pp. i-10) a discourse, on Hosea chapter 3 verse 5, designed ‘to shew the happinesse of that martyred prince in the millenium, and to rectifie some mistakes about the millenium’.

Miscellaneous notes by Sir John Floyer, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 578
Extent: 18 leaves
Binding: Unbound

Comprises notes

  • (fols. 1-2) on the signs of the second coming
  • (fols. 3-4) beginning ‘Lett us suppose that wee should live to see the second comeing of Christ’
  • (fols. 5-6) on contemporary astrology and predictions, and on William Lilly’s ‘conference with spirits’
  • (fols 7-8) on the identification of Mahomet as the Anti-Christ
  • (fols. 9-10) on prodigies from the reign of Henry I to that of James I, taken from Speed’s History
  • (fol. 11) on earthquakes in ancient Greece
  • (fols. 12-16) on the aftermath of comets and other signs from the 4th to the 11th centuries and in the 17th century
  • (fols. 17-18) on Floyer’s observations of the corona on 6 March 1716 and in 1721

Essay by Sir John Floyer ‘to prove that all our knowledge of religion and morality and usefull arts come to us from the first ages by tradition and are noe invention of the humane race’, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 579
Extent: 23 leaves
Binding: Paper wrappers

Comprises (fols. 2-22) a discourse tracing religion and morality back to the Creation, whence they were passed by oral tradition through generations of the family into the laws of the civil state.

Two essays by Sir John Floyer, early 18th cent., on the Trinity and the Holy Ghost
Shelfmark: MS. 580
Extent: 11 leaves
Binding: Paper wrappers


  • (fols. 2-3) ‘An explication of the Trinity as it is delivered in the Scripture’
  • (fols. 4-11) ‘An account of the Holy Spirit collected from the Scripture’

Sermon by Sir John Floyer, early 18th cent.
Shelfmark: MS. 581
Extent: 15 leaves
Binding: Stitched, not bound

Comprises (fols. 1-15) a sermon drawing a parallel between God’s destruction of the Jews when they murmured against Moses in the wilderness and the fate which awaits those who murmur against ‘our Governors in chusrh and state’.


Catalogue compiled by Mary Clapinson in 2004